National Philharmonic to shut down

Wed Jul 17, 2019 at 3:54 pm

On Tuesday, the National Philharmonic announced plans to close permanently. 

“It is with great sadness that I must report that the National Philharmonic has to shut its doors,” said  the orchestra’s president Leanne Ferfolia in a press release. “We have been an important and integral part of the community and a service to Montgomery County residents, especially the thousands of young people who were able to attend our concerts with their families for free.”

The part-time orchestra, based in the Music Center at Strathmore, says that it can no longer square its shrinking government funding with increased operating costs. Unless it can meet a budget shortfall of $150,000, a request rejected by the Montgomery County government, it will cease operations and lay off all its musicians and staff.

According to a statement released by the Philharmonic, the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County has reduced annual funding for the orchestra steadily over the last eight years, from $270,000 per year to $107,000. At the same time, Strathmore has nearly doubled the ensemble’s operating and performing fees. Strathmore has offered to reduce those fees for the 2019-20 season, but not enough to relieve the National Philharmonic’s budget woes.

Ferfolia stated in an email that there is no time frame for the closure. “The National Philharmonic would be delighted,” she added, “if a donor would come forward or funding were to come through for its operations to continue.”

Founded in the mid-1980s as the Montgomery Chamber Orchestra by principal conductor Piotr Gajewski, the ensemble became the National Philharmonic in 2003 after merging with the Masterworks Chorus. The orchestra served the residents of Montgomery County and the entire Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area for over 40 years, aiming especially to make classical music and concert going a part of daily life for young people.

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Meanwhile, the lockout continues at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, which on Monday announced the results of an audit of its finances. 

According to a press release from BSO management, the report “highlights the substantial uncertainty regarding the BSO’s ability to continue as a going concern based in part upon concerns that the BSO will be unable to meet its contributed revenue and earned revenue forecasts while efforts continue to reach agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement.”

The BSO and Musicians’ Association of Metropolitan Baltimore, Local 40-543, will meet for a collective bargaining session Wednesday together with federal mediators. If no agreement is reached, Strathmore could lose both of its resident orchestras next season.


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